UB off-campus living website aims to help students choose quality housing
Website looks to ensure safety and quality landlords to UB students
UB students living off campus will often sign a lease to a new apartment and end up inhabiting unsafe living conditions. UB’s off-campus housing listing website looks to alleviate that problem.
The Off-Campus Student Services website provides students with a list of houses and apartments that have passed a municipal safety inspection in the last 36 months. The website provides students with a list of landlords that have successfully kept up-to-code on their properties. It also gives students a checklist of things they should look for prior to signing their lease.
Dan Ryan, director of Off-Campus Student Services, said students often end up making poor decisions about selecting housing based on a lack of experience.
“It’s sort of like buying a car,” Ryan said. “The first time you do it you make a decision based on things that aren’t important and there ends up being things you overlook. It’s not uncommon when buying a car for people to pay too much attention to the sound system than miles per gallon.”
Ryan said students might not even realize when they are living in unsafe conditions.
Ryan and a group of City of Buffalo inspectors perform “housing blitzes” twice a year, in which they check for housing violations within the University Heights neighborhood, which has had issues with absentee landlordism and unsafe conditions.
Some landlords have yet to pass the housing inspections.
“It’s my understanding that the majority of houses owned by Jeremy Dunn have had some significant violations,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that he has discovered students living in attics with only one way to exit in Dunn’s apartments. He said he also witnessed situations in which windows or doors didn’t lock, buildup of black mold, missing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors within his apartments.
The Spectrum reached out to City of Buffalo Inspector Lou Petrucci to confirm Dunn’s violations, but he did not immediately respond.
Dunn owns roughly 24 properties on Winspear Avenue and Northrup Place within the University Heights neighborhood as of 2015, according to WGRZ.
None of Dunn’s properties have passed Ryan’s inspections.
Ryan said because the website only shows properties that have passed the inspection, there are currently no Dunn properties listed.
Dunn defends his landlord practices and homes.
“I have a full time staff that works on the houses and I think that we’ve taken a bunch of run-down houses— and in a lot of cases foreclosed – and made them decent and we continue to improve our houses,” Dunn said. “The housing violations are only one component of what we do.”
Dunn said these violations have to do with students taking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors down during the school year.
He said it’s a “constant battle” to keep smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors intact all-year round. Some of his residents have taken batteries out of detectors and used them for devices such as remote controls, he said.
Dunn said Ryan has a “personal vendetta” against him, stemming from his refusal to provide Ryan with a list of his tenants.
“Dan Ryan should just chill,” Dunn said.
However, Ryan said this isn’t the case, and that he only asks for names of the tenants so he can confirm the stories he’s heard about their living conditions. He “just wants to make sure the houses are up to code.”
Other landlords within the Heights neighborhood have successfully passed inspections and are therefore listed on the website.
Ryan cited Andy Sauer as one of the landlords who have complied with housing codes.
Saur has worked closely with Ryan and his team and invested money to make sure his houses are up to code, according to Ryan. Sauer owns properties on Englewood Avenue and Northrup Place.
Landlord Tom Ingalls, who owns houses on Lasalle Avenue, has also been compliant with the codes, according to Ryan.
The website also advises that students research the amount of crime on crimesreports.com in a neighborhood prior to moving in.
“We’ve had an awful lot of students who were burglarized who had problems with crimes,” Ryan said. “Install[ing] security systems was just one way where they were better prepared.”
Ryan said students should also document the condition of the place before moving in so students can show problems that preexisted.
Sub-Board I, Inc. (SBI) also has a website that indicates off-campus property listings. However, the website includes houses that have not been inspected.
Ryan said other websites that provide housing listings place the value of advertising revenue ahead of student safety.
Darnell Lubin, a freshman biology major, said having a website to assist students in choosing off-campus housing is a good way to relieve students of the stress of searching.
“College students already have enough to stress about [like] work, studying, so I think making it easier to not have the stress of if our apartments have carbon monoxide detectors or fire detectors or simple things like mold building up,” Lubin said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Ryan said for the most part the landlords in the Heights neighborhood have chosen not to go through the inspection process and instead resort to Craigslist or SBI’s website.
Ryan held the first-ever Housing Fair roughly two weeks ago, where students were able to learn about selecting off-campus housing.
City of Buffalo inspectors and police were present at the fair. SBI Legal also worked with students by reviewing their leases.
Two landlords from the Heights neighborhood were invited to the fair. Landlords from the Cheektowaga-Buffalo area, Collegiate Village and Sweet Home Road were also present.
The next housing blitzes will take place in the first or second week of April, according to Ryan.
Ashley Inkumsah is a news desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.